What are homeowners asking for when it comes to residential construction? One architect offers his observations of what's in and what's out.

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What’s new when it comes to residential construction?

Philadelphia architect Jim Wentling is my go-to person when I want the latest trends, and at the top of his list for 2016 is the “buddy bath” — a bathroom with two doors shared by two bedrooms.

In four-bedroom houses, the “buddy” or “Jack and Jill” bath is a “slam-dunk,” Wentling says, along with a private bathroom for the fourth bedroom.

Builders had been putting in 8-by-5-foot “secondary” bathrooms, but Wentling says this touch is falling out of favor with buyers.

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“Try for two bowls in the vanity and a window, and an extra foot or two added to the length,” he says.

Builders also might consider widening the bathroom space to 8-by-8-foot, allowing the tub to be opposite to the vanity.

“Another striking evolution found in most popular floor plans is the increasingly larger island in the kitchen,” Wentling says.

The trend is toward islands with flush countertops that are 48 inches deep to accommodate seating on one side. Base cabinetry at the end can be used for shelving or appliances, he says.

Smaller islands with no seating are now seen as a negative, so it may be better to omit or offer them as an option.

Walk-in pantries have it over 3-by-2-foot ones, but Wentling says we’ve seen this coming for years. From the late 1990s until the housing market fell apart in 2006–2007, new homes were getting ever larger, but buyers were still complaining about the lack of storage.

The solution would have been weekly yard sales and buying a week’s worth of groceries rather than an entire year’s supply, but builders answered with more and more storage space.

The trend is toward smaller houses — except in regions where high land prices force builders to cover lots with as much house as possible.

Then there is the movement toward more open kitchens that began in the early 2000s, which has led to larger walk-in pantries that compensate for upper cabinetry removed from walls that were eliminated, Wentling says.

“This is actually somewhat of a retro-feature; looking at historical plans, the pantry was an unheated larger space next to the kitchen where produce was stored,” he says.

A master bath feature becoming more popular is a shower with a seat, Wentling says.

“The soaking tub typically adjacent to the shower is sometimes eliminated in smaller plans, but the 3-by-4-foot shower base is not cutting it,” he says. “The shower is used much more than the tub and buyers see a functional and roomy shower as much more important than the soaking tub.”

If you are competing with new construction for a sale, consider changes well before you put your older home on the market. That way, you can enjoy the benefits of an upgrade and, perhaps, increase the value of your home when it does go on the market.